Madison, Wisconsin – People who told researchers that they felt stressed and that they believed it was affecting their health were more likely to die prematurely in subsequent years.
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health linked data from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey to prospective National Death Index mortality data through 2006. They examined the interaction between the amount of stress and the perception that stress affects health, controlling for other factors.
They found that one-third of adults in the United States perceived that stress affected their health a lot or to some extent in the past year. Both higher levels of reported stress and the perception that stress affects health were independently associated with an increased likelihood of worse physical and mental health.
Most strikingly, those who reported a lot of stress and that stress greatly impacted their health had a 43 percent increased risk of premature death.
“Our results show that high stress levels and whether you think it has an impact on your health seems to matter for your longevity,” says Dr. Whitney Witt, the study’s senior author and assistant professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences.
The survey of 28,753 adults showed:
- One-third of U.S. adults perceived that stress affected their health a lot or to some extent and more than half of U.S. adults reported experiencing a lot or a moderate amount of stress.
- Adults with high amounts of stress were 75 percent more likely to be in poor physical health and more than seven times more likely to be in poor mental health.
- Adults who reported the belief that stress impacts health were four times more likely to be in poor physical health and five times more likely to be in poor mental health.
- People who reported both a high amount of stress and perceived that stress affected their health had a 43 percent increased risk of premature death.
“The results suggest that stress should be discussed by patients and providers who may want to consider strategies for decreasing the amount and impact of stress,” says Abiola Keller, first author of the study.
The study was published online Dec. 26, 2011, in the journal Health Psychology, the journal of the American Psychological Association.